Beijing is building its largest city park, the Olympic Forest Park, which will become the "back garden" of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Covering 680 hectares in northern Beijing, this multi-million dollar park offers city residents a quiet and green refuge from the urban hustle and bustle. The city hopes to create for the 2008 Games a landscape of mountain and water that will represent the art of the Chinese garden in the 21st century.
The park is expected to be completed by the end of 2007 in good time for the 2008 Games.
Dozens of international architectural and garden research institutes have participated in the making of the master plan of the Olympic Forest Park.
The experts finally decided the park should be developed as a natural extension of the city, a symbolic "return to nature."
"It will be a cultural heritage of the 2008 Olympic Games and a new landmark for the capital city," says Hu Jie, director of the Landscape Design and Planning Institute of Tsinghua University, and the leader of the team designing this giant park.
With its host of sporting, cultural and business facilities, the park will be able to welcome over 40,000 visitors every day.
During the 2008 Games, the park will be the venue for tennis, archery and hockey events.
The park will also play another important role as an ecological sanctuary, serving as an important source of oxygen for the area.
Beijing's metropolitan area is significantly warmer than its surroundings due to the phenomenon that scientists call "urban heat island effect." But the areas around city parks have much lower temperatures, so the huge forest park will eventually benefit Beijing in a big way, experts say.
Hu said the ecological benefits of the man-made park will take time to develop, but the park will help clean up the air as well as providing "a green backdrop" for the Games.
Two features of the park will be Main Mountain and Main Lake.
The former will be made of 3.98 million cubic metres of earth, creating an enormous man-made mountain in Beijing. The Main Lake, also to be called "Olympic Lake," will be 122 hectares in area.
In planning, the designers first considered the construction of a landscape based on a natural ecosystem. And while simulating nature, the designers say they control the species and colours of the plants in the forest park, so they come from the nature and yet surpass the nature.
After the Games, the Olympic Forest Park will be open to the public and all temporary facilities will be turned into educational and recreation facilities for Beijing residents and visitors from elsewhere.
Designers say its full range of services will guarantee the park's smooth post-Olympic operations.
In the park, the city will also build an Olympic International Area, which will include a media centre, conference facilities, a post office, restaurants, and logistics and commercial facilities.
The park project was started in 2003, with the Chaoyang District government responsible for the construction of the park. Special agencies have been set up for the construction management and operation of the park.
International bidding for the design of the Olympic Forest Park was launched in 2003, attracting 51 submissions from 12 nations and regions, including Singapore, Australia, the United States and France.
Hu's centre and US-based Sasaki Associates Inc jointly formulated a blueprint and won the top award.
"We have organized a team with another four institutes to complete the overall design and flesh it out," said Hu, adding that no single institute can complete such a big design project.
The four institutes involved are China Landscape and Gardens Research Centre, Chuang Xin Landscape and Park Design Studio, China Ancient Architecture Landscape Design Institute and Landscape Designing Centre of Beijing Forestry University.
In addition, more than 70 Chinese and foreign architects are involved in the design of the Olympic Forest Park.
Although it is common for a number of institutes to co-operate on a single major project, this model of collaboration is still rare in China.
"Co-operation is very important for a large design project, which will have to deal with some very detailed aspects," said Hu.
For instance, there are a few centuries-old buildings and stone tablets in the park. China Ancient Architecture Landscape Design Institute will be responsible for their upkeep, he said.
Insiders say that although such co-operation is uncommon in China's architectural design circles, it will become a trend.
As the market opens and greater numbers of leading foreign design institutes get involved, this will prove to be an efficient way to enhance competitiveness and make full use of everyone's advantages.
Hu is also very proud that a Chinese architecture firm has won such a prestigious Olympic bid, noting that foreign designers have won many of the contracts for Olympic projects.
A single domestic institute may be inferior to its foreign counterparts in terms of international experience and design skills, but this problem will be solved by co-operation, including Sino-foreign collaboration, Hu said.
With a total of nearly 30 staff, Hu employs three foreign senior designers and has established a sound relationship with a number of design institutes at home and abroad.
Hu is currently involved in a number of projects. These include Tianjing Lake in Central China's Hunan Province, Longzi Lake in East China's Anhui Province, East China's Fuzhou University, and the renovation of Beiijng's Wenyu River. All of these projects are worth millions of yuan.
Source: China Daily